Jonathan Engevik is a busy man. In addition to his full-time job as an executive producer in design and merchandising, which requires him to travel beyond the borders of the Gem State, Engevik is writing a series of books and has purchased hundreds of Internet domain names for an altogether different project. Those sites will become what he describes as a "family of memory Web sites with a humanitarian focus." Engevik will launch seven of what he anticipates to be nearly 30 such sites over the next 11 months. The first, memoriesofasoldier.com, went live in November. In just a few weeks, the site has received thousands of hits. The idea is that many of those visitors will create profiles of an armed services member. Although Memories of a Soldier is specifically geared toward celebrating former and current armed services members, each of Engevik's other memory sites offers a forum for a completely different subset of society.
Tell me about Memories of a Soldier.
Memories of a Soldier was conceived by my sister and I. Our father, uncles, grandfathers were all in the service and we did not lose them to the service but we were brainstorming one evening about humanity and so forth and today's world and we came up with the idea for this particular site. It's a way of connecting with people, and we love to connect with people. It was like 10 at night in Laguna Beach and we were just talking and brainstorming. I'm an entrepreneur and she's a journalist and we were just talking about how our two creative minds could work together. It wasn't thought out or planned, it just happened. And 360 domains later, I guess we're on a track of no return
So it's like Facebook for vets?
It could be. What's so interesting is that we launched on Nov. 11. I just checked and we have just now hit over 68,000 links to our site in a little over a week, and over 2,700 downloads for articles to be read and that's exciting to me.
What accounts for such response?
I think it has to do with where we are right now in our world. I think it has to do with acknowledging people and remembering who they are, whether they're serving or not, whether they're alive or not. I think people need to be touched. I think they've lost their way. I'm currently in the process of writing a series of four books that deal with humanity and boosting up the morale of individuals so they can move forward in their lives. These memory sites will be able to connect people. You'll be able to have a profile on Memories of a Soldier, for example, free. If you care to donate to help keep it going, fine. If not, it's not a problem.
All of a sudden you have this network of people who can relate to others and be safe. It's about connecting with human beings one right after another.
How many profiles do you have?
In one week, we've gotten 28 profiles.
Have you read them all?
Most of them. And you can go on there and read them. When something like this gets started, it's not going to happen overnight. Overnight to us is tomorrow, but overnight in the grand scheme of things could be a year from now, or two years from now.
Is there something you've read on the site so far that sticks with you?
People that I've had conversations with who've either signed up or are going to sign up. The fact that they can actually share the story that they're currently living or that their family members have lived and say what made them so special.
It strikes me as being virtual scrapbooking, a virtual record of a person's life.
I don't know about scrapbooking. Scrapbooking to me is more of something that sits on the coffee table and you go to a class and learn to do it. I think this is more of a way to connect, to understand, to acknowledge, to have a connection, to learn, to educate, to inspire. My Facebook is "these are my friends" and "here's my favorite music" that type of thing. This is more of a profile identification, learning from each other and what each person has gone through.
Is this just a hobby for you?
Nope. No, this is not a hobby. My whole background has been entrepreneurial from design aspect to building facilities, development and construction, and my whole basis in life is about being a humanitarian and philanthropist. I believe in connecting with people. I believe in helping others get through the next day. I've had challenges just like everybody else. I lived out of my car at one point and had other interesting challenges and obstacles. But I learned from those and made it better for myself. I guess that is what my plight is in life: making it better for other people, whatever that may be.
So you've been collaborating from Idaho on this site while your sister is in California?
Yes, and I travel. We are always on e-mail, we talk at the same time every single day. I call my mother every single day at 7. Sun, rain, shine, snow, everyday. She can count on that. It's a way of connecting. It's about showing up everyday. We all have to show up—not for work, for life. And in the end, I guess that's what these sites are about. Showing up.
Do you think it's ironic that we do that through a medium that's so impersonal?
You mean the Internet? I think you can do it through real life on a one-to-one basis but because the world is now advancing so fast into the technological age, this is a safe way for people to connect without having to divulge who they are. Is it impersonal? Yeah, especially because I'm a people person, but this is the way the world is going. We send e-mails all day long; it's cost effective, it gets the message out there.
I was surprised to see profiles from veterans from WWI, WWII and Korea.
This is what it's about. It's Memories of a Soldier, so it's about a soldier. It's not about Iraq and Afghanistan, it's about a soldier. It's about what you have done or what you are currently doing or what they did. What difference did your grandfather make? What did he do? What did your [grandmother] do?
Can you do both your job and these sites?
Absolutely. I'm a visionary, I'm not someone who can program what needs to be done.
Do the programmers work pro bono for you?
No, I have to pay out of my pocket, and that's a hard thing to do because it's not cheap. I figure if I work to make a living and get this done, to further it, then I'm doing my part.